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Birchbark Blog

Faces of America

Birchbark Books - Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Louise will soon be featured as one of the "12 renowned Americans" profiled in the upcoming PBS series Faces of America. Here are some video selections of Louise speaking with series host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Where are they? Birchbark Books! More video can be found on the Faces of America website.

Louise Erdrich - Faces of America, Part 1


Louise Erdrich - Faces of America, Part 2

What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the new PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Building on the success of his series African American Lives (called by the New York Times "the most exciting and stirring documentary on any subject to appear on television in a long time,") and African American Lives 2, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. again turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans.

The series premieres nationally Wednesdays, February 10 - March 3, 2010 from 8-9 p.m. ET on PBS.

Thank You, Pilgrims

Louise Erdrich - Sunday, November 22, 2009
Thank you, Pilgrims!

No, not buckle pilgrims -- book pilgrims.

 Our little bookstore would never survive without the Pilgrims who come to visit us from every part of the world.  Thank you for coming to visit us.  Thank you for drinking coffee at the Kenwood Cafe.  Thank you for sitting in the reading chairs and for telling us how and why you came to Birchbark Books.  Thank you for sharing the green stuff that lubricates the wheels of civilization.  Over the summer and fall, we've have visitors from Italy, Canada, China, Germany, England, Nigeria, Ireland, Turkey, Sweden, Japan, Romania, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Maple Grove, Minnesota, from the nations of Leech Lake, Red Lake, White Earth, Turtle Mountain, Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and ICELAND ( !), to name just a few locales where literati decide that when visiting Minneapolis they will find Birchbark Books.

It is always such a pleasure to find out how and why people arrive at the blue Birchbark door (blue to resist evil spirits).  Often they have been dragged in by a relative, it is true.  But that relative has a love of books and little bookstores, and passes this on.  Many times the next generation is imbued with the spirit of the place.  We have children who have grown up reading such books as A Coyote Solstice Tale, by Thomas King, pictures by Gary Clement.  The perfect book to read in the Birchbark Loft.  This is a wonderful coyote sweet and funny book, a gentle anti-Christmas craziiness story that resonated with me and will, I think, with every mother and father whose children's visions of sugar plums require them to visit a crowded mall.  It made me want to drink hot chocolate and curl up with a good book.

I plan on curling up (again) with Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive, Decolonizing Botanical Anishinaabe Teachings, by Wendy Makoons Geniusz.   This book is several things at once: a primer on truth, an innovative Anishinabe-English language text, a grand discussion of what has been already written about Anishinabe use of plants, and a delightful act of love.   Decolonized knowledge of the world allows a person access to the entire range of human experience of nature -- from use to song to dream to dance.  This work is eye-opening and joyous .  And it is one of my favorite books of the year.   

One Amazing Thing in Normal, Illinois

Louise Erdrich - Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Dear Friends,

Last week I was invited to Normal/Bloomington Illinois.  I would speak to students, and read poetry, and looked forward to meeting those who had arranged this visit.  Lynda especially had been patient and encouraging.  Somewhere along the line I realized that David Foster Wallace had taught here, which made me think of his life and work and his graduation speech.  

I looked forward to the book in my bag, One Amazing Thing, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and to seeing again the person who would drive me.  Bill Young.  I had just finished reading Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safron Foer, and had decided that my rare and even very careful (you know, organic ranch raised creatures imagined so happy to be eaten they run eagerly to the slaughterhouse) type of meat eating was now at an end.  Bill and I talked of this.  On the way to the place I was staying, The Chateau, a unit of motorcycle state police passed us in proud formation.  We seemed to have a police escort!  But as it turned out, there was a convention of state troopers at The Chateau.  The readings of poetry, for a radio show all poetry, and the readings in general, went very well and I couldn't have been more hospitably treated.  I loved walking into the Chateau, past the old tapestry, over the tired new carpet.  Bill and I decided to have a post-reading glass of wine in The Lido bar.  It was filled with rowdy and roaring state troopers, but who do you call when they are the ones disturbing the peace?  

Bill and I went out for a burger -- well, a veggie burger, which can be had at Burger King.  Ours must have been sitting deep in the freezer, said Bill.  For a long time.  But he ate it and we had a glass of wine -- from the Chateau cellar.  The goblet was huge, but of course one would expect that at a Chateau.  I wanted to see the wine cellar, but as the library was mainly American Jurisprudence and Janet Evanovich, and some diet books, Bill said that the wine cellar might not be what I expected.  So up I went to One Amazing Thing, which I intended to fall asleep reading.  Early on I realized that Chitra was throwing a plot at me!  An irresistible plot where a mini-UN of interesting people get trapped by a disaster and each must come up with a story.  Oh no!  Oh yes!  I was up very late.  I read straight through because this is the sort of book that pulls you along.  Divakaruni is so adept with her characterizations.  She has a light touch with people.  She is a careful, evocative writer.   I wanted to be any of the several beauty salons described so lovingly.  I wanted to eat the bits of food described with such delicacy.  Chitra Divakaruni has written 14 books and they just keep getting better.  I think I enjoyed this one the most, lying there in my French (?) four poster bed, French (?) scenes of rural life on the wall, wishing for another French (?) veggie burger, or another goblet from the Chateau cellar.  Outside the rain fell and fell.  The next morning driving back to O'Hare we were passed by a state police car hauling a trailer with motorcycles strapped onto it.  Were the troopers still reeling in the Chateau?  Was the rain too dangerous?  Had they forgotten their rain gear?  We will never know.  But I am still a vegetarian.  

And today, back in Minneapolis, I still admire this line from One Amazing Thing, "She ignored Uma superbly, as people do when faced with those those abject destinies they control."  Haven't we all been ignored superbly?  How I hate it when my abject destiny is controlled by others.    


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